On 29th July, Shropshire VCS Assembly benefited from a workshop named ‘Digital Technologies, Power and Control: security, privacy, identity and trust in the digital age’. The research workshop was led by Dr Ben Evans, from the School of Psychology & Counselling, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, at The Open University.
The workshop explored a wide range of themes and issues. These included:
- The practicalities of getting online and connecting to others and using services online. This includes affordability, accessing the right equipment, understanding and arranging set up, finding the right support, and overcoming any obstacles.
- The additional challenges people can face if they don’t have access to support to get online or have learning difficulties or impairments (such as visual and hearing impairments) that make it more challenging.
- In a very rural county like Shropshire, greater inequalities can develop for people unable to get online and make use of digital technologies and services.
- At the same time there are benefits of digital technologies. People with visual and hearing impairments for example, or people who prefer visual learning, can make use of a wide range of new technologies designed to make things easier. People can overcome challenges using new technology.
- People have learnt new online skills during the pandemic, explored new digital opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise considered, and have been sharing information and learning with networks has been valuable mutual learning.
- What’s App, Zoom and many other tools have helped people to keep in touch during the pandemic at a time when they may otherwise have been socially isolated. Digital can facilitate social interactions online and overcome face to face social restrictions.
- Although there are benefits of digital there are also risks. People can make comments online that they wouldn’t make in person, people can take advantage of others online, there is a risk of data being stolen etc. These risks or a lack of online confidence can mean people develop insecurities when communicating digitally.
- The benefits of digital have been maximised where people are using digital technology to stay in touch with people or grow their networks.
- The group agreed that digital technology can be beneficial but there was a strong belief that it cannot replace the basic human needs to socialise and be physically with people. Face to face interactions are considered more valuable than remote ones.
Many thanks to all the VCS Assembly members who participated in the workshop. It was a really helpful discussion and important insight into the range of different experiences and issues at work in Shropshire. The findings will form part of a larger study led by the Open University, one that will be shared nationally and influence future policy. We hope to share the results of this fascinating research through the VCS Assembly news, following publication.